It all started with a book. A beautiful, wordless book to illuminate the imagination and let it roam… Flashlight by Lizi Boyd quickly became a class favorite.
We studied it as storytellers, artists, and even scientists. The book’s black and white pages with a flashlight beam flooding things in the dark forest with color was a wonderful fit for our science unit on the human eye. As writers, using Flashlight was the perfect way to give students a chance to flex their narrative writing muscles, creating their own story inspired by the wordless journey of a little boy in the woods with a flashlight. The artist in each of us was curious to try Lizi Boyd’s whimsical style with black paper and white colored pencils. The flashlight beam was created by cutting white construction paper into the shape of the light and each student chose what item(s) in the forest the beam would illuminate (animals, plants, rocks…) and used colored pencils to highlight this choice. A few examples (you can click on the pictures for a close-up and to find out who drew it):
Writing the stories was a fun challenge. After studying the book a couple of times as readers, we studied it as writers. What stories were emerging for writers? Some connected to times they’d been camping, others borrowed from fairy tales and other stories they had encountered as readers, and many writers created a story from their imagination blended with real life experience. It helped that earlier in the year, we had studied photographs and created stories from what we noticed and observed.
Saved By the Flashlight by Eli Roche-Sanchez, 2nd grade
One night a boy went looking in the woods with a awesome, high tech, and cool flashlight. He set his tent up by a river. Then he leaped over the river like a pogo stick. The river led to a waterfall. Then he saw some fish. He was exhilarated to see the fish. He accidentally fell in the river but the fish saved him. He was scared after he fell in the river so he turned his flashlight on really bright mode. He liked that. So he went back to his tent and slept happily through the night.
Wandering Boy by Rylan Elwin, 3rd Grae
We like it in the woods at night. Nobody really even bothers us. But last night something unusual happened. The bravest, most courageous, and most curious boy came into our woods. He had a thing that shot light like the sun out of it. Then he dropped it, and we all tried to grasp it! My friend the raccoon got it first! The raccoon figured out it’s a thing called a “flashlight.” It lights up anything in its path. When he figured that out, he handed it to the boy, who was chasing the raccoon for his flashlight back! Then the boy stomped back to his tent, and the woods were peaceful again!
The end! But wait… Until the boy comes back tomorrow night! What will happen next?
Moon Boy by Lyla Hokanson, 1st Grade
One day there was a boy named Jay. He always said to his mom, “Can we go camping with my friends?” “Have you lost your mind? There are creatures out there that will eat you! And we will never see you again,” said the mom. So Jay went to school and he told his friends that he wanted to go on a camping trip. “Are you out of your mind?” said his friends.
When Jay got home, he stomped into his room. He decided that he would sneak out of his cottage close to the forest. Soon it was night so he got his flashlight. Out in the forest, he wanted to go to sleep, but he had forgotten his tent. “Oh, no!” he thought. Jay gazed up at the stars and he heard a quiet, “shhhh.” Jay was scared. Even though he heard a scary “shhhh” he still wanted to stay in the deep forest. He thought for a moment, “Why did I leave my home without asking?” Then Jay felt bad. The moon told him quietly “go home,” so Jay went home and had a good life after all and his parents were happy!
As we finished hanging the art and writing in our classroom, marveling at how wonderful this learning journey had been, Ms. Boyesen was compelled to share a piece of it with the author. She told the class, “you never know unless you try,” and emailed examples of the art and writing to the author in hopes of hearing back. With bated breath, we waited…and waited…and waited for a response (time slows down when you’re waiting for something as important as a response from an author). Nothing. Oh well, it was worth a try, Ms. Boyesen told herself at the end of the week. Then just as she’d given up hope, a cheery email reply appeared in her inbox.
“I LOVE where you took my book, Flashlight! I LOVE that you created your own stories. This is a very cool project! When I did this book and made it wordless what I wanted was for it to truly belong to the reader; their eyes, their interpretations, their stories. You’ve done that and gone even further than even I’d imagined.” (excerpt from the first email from the author, Lizi Boyd)
Not only did the author reply, but it came with the promise of a box and a book in the mail! The author generously sent not only a brand new copy of her other lovely wordless book, Inside Outside
, but also 44 beautiful little notebook and book marks for the class. The author shares her fresh, whimsical style via her paper company
as well as her books. Here are a few shots of what she sent us in the mail:
“Keep drawing, writing and imagining,” was the author’s advice to our class. The kids were beyond excited. “I’ll treasure this forever!” one of our 3rd graders exclaimed about her notebook. The timing couldn’t have been better either. We’d just embarked on a “Gift of Words” project in our class before the holiday break. The idea was to collect words, phrases, paragraphs of words that spoke to the students in some way. The book marks Lizi Boyd sent us each had a little quote on it, which sent shivers of excitement down our writers’ and word-collectors’ spines… Such joy!
Showing gratitude in letter format is the perfect opportunity to write for an authentic purpose, and all 44 fans put their whole heart into it! Each writer had plenty of appreciation to share with our now-favorite author and many drew sweet little pictures of notebooks and flashlights. Then, carefully sealed in a large manilla envelope, we sent it off our thank you letters to chilly Vermont, knowing we had done the best we could to express our gratitude. In an recent email from the author, we learned that two of our letters (thanks to the author sharing!) had been posted on Chronicle Books’ Blog! As Lizi Boyd said in her email, “And please, it doesn’t matter who’s letters were posted because they loved them all and your projects with the books…” We’re so excited to be included on a publisher’s blog (and it’s funny to note that they said we’re a local class. “Our” Lizi Boyd knows we’re from California…it’s all good). Here’s the blog:
As you might have guessed, Inside Outside became our next muse, this time with a design challenge. This cozy, wordless book takes us inside the “caramel cottage” (coined by one of our third grade writers) then outside in the snow, and back and forth… And not to give it all away, each page has a wonderful little window allowing a peek outside or inside depending on the vantage point. So the design challenge became to design an inside scene and outside scene, each with a little peeking window opening into the other. It’s not easy (for children and adults alike) to plan this out! We needed several iterations to accomplish our design goals, but no one ever said the things worth doing are easy! Embracing the challenge, we tried, and failed, and tried again. Here’s a little peek at the finished product (please notice the window connecting inside to outside):
(If you want to see the page turning, check out this quick video:)Video 1
And, of course, we continued our writing journey as well. As teachers, we learned from the Flashlight stories that we needed to provide more structure for our young writers this time. Though the stories had turned out wonderful in the end (after writing meetings and conferring and editing…), we wanted to provide a scaffold to help writers think through their beginning, middle, and end. As many of you know, young writers will often meander down the story-telling road without an end in sight… Using story-boards helped students to think through parts of the story, including the ending, before they start writing.
Like Flashlight, these Inside Outside-inspired stories came from a mix of student imagination, experience, and encounter with story in their reading lives. This time around, we also added the element of “temporal words” and phrases, teaching kids various ways to show that time is passing. Many students chose to have their stories, like Inside Outside, encompass all four seasons of the year. It’s not an easy thing to be a six, seven, or eight year old writer, and keep the reader’s interest through several season. Did they accomplish this? You be the judge…
Times End but Memories Stay by Evie Naples, 3rd Grade
As the first snowflake touched the ground, I packed a bag of my favorite things as a snowman glimpsed through the window wondering what I was doing. So I scurried outside plunking my whole body in the snow, sinking like a deflated ball bathing in the cool crisp air, never wanting it to end. Of course, spring always has to come in its most playful way, but this spring was different… Clouds cried and trees whipped. As the boy hid inside hishouse surrounding himself with his “stuffies” for the day, he shivered with fear and was frightened from thunder. Then he burst up, threw on his raincoat, called his trusty assistant (his dog), and ran outside for a split second, but it was too cold and sohe ran back in, clinging to the walls every time the thunder
clapped. Finally, the rain stopped and the sun came out, bringing acolorful friend along for company, and even though the seasons have to come to an end you can always wish for it to come next year!!!!
Adventures Through Seasons by Elke Farrow, 3rd Grade
The winter snow fell softly onto the cold, hard, ground, and the wind whistled throughout the trees, as I prepared for spring. My name is Nia, and I am nine years old. To prepare for the season of growth, I gathered all the seeds I owned, and searched for my shovel. Once I was done, I decided to make the best of winter, and go make some snowmen in the light, crunchy, white snow, which was like a vast blanket covering hills and forests. Before I stepped out my big, red, door, I gave an invitation for my fuzzy, soft, loyal dog, Midnight, to come with me. But when my fluffy, playful, stubborn cat Sandy meowed loudly to go out, I refused, and explained to her, “Sandy, you won’t like it out there! Cats do not like water at all!” Suddenly, Midnight and I slipped out the door, and I made big, fancy, medium, plain, and small snowmen (who had lots of personalities), with the help of Midnight of course. Later, we strolled inside, and said hello to Sandy. Other days and months, we had many more adventures in the snow for the rest of a very white winter.
One warm, snow-clear day, there was a change in the air that everyone could feel…Finally, spring had arrived! Birds sang, “Tweet, tweet, tweet,” as they curiously peeked and gazed through the window. Outside, it seemed as if it was wonderland. Happily, all different kinds of birds cooed, and chirped. Then, I had a wonderful idea. “Yay!” I yelled as I raced to find my “spring bag”, and then scurried back outside. While planting, my mind drifted into daydreams of flowers and vegetables and fruits that the seeds would grow to be… while my pets daydreamed of rolling and jumping and scratching. After much gardening, meowing, barking and waiting, the rain came, so I got into my rain gear (rain boots, raincoats, and umbrellas) then skipped outside, to find a little friend waiting for me. Its head peeked curiously out of its shell, but then quickly shrunk back in. A turtle! “I’ll name you Joy!” I gently said, and brought her inside.
The next thing I knew it was summer! My plants were in full bloom, I picked some, and had wondrous meals. Way too soon, summer shrunk away to fall, and leaves dropped and scattered on the ground, leaving a lonely tree bare. Midnight rolled and barked in the leaves, Sandy meowed and stalked, and Joy enjoyed. Each day was similar, if not, the same… until I dressed in my magician costume, and Sandy, Midnight, and Joy all headed out with me to go trick-or-treating. It was a long night, but almost as soon as we arrived back, the first soft, feathery and delicate hexagonal snowflake cartwheeled to the ground. The first snowflake… that meant it was winter once again! Excitedly I sauntered through my bright valentine-red wood door. Falling asleep quickly, I felt the cold chill of winter. Hours seemed to pass as quick as a blink of an eye, and soon I stretched awake. Remembering the snow, I hurried to the window. Unfortunately, the snow had melted, for it was not yet deep into winter. “It will come again soon, maybe even tonight,” I promised myself.
That night, I realized I was right. Bundled heavily in winter clothing, I waddled out the door with Midnight. Being inconspicuous, I climbed up the ladder to my tree house, and gazed outside. I watched the birds fly, listened to the wind howling through the trees, wondering what it would be like next year, and what adventures it would bring with it.
When the year started, we never in our wildest dreams expected that we would have the opportunity to do such an in-depth author study of Lizi Boyd with Lizi Boyd, but we’re thrilled and excited that the opportunity unfolded before us! And it all started with a beautiful, wordless book. It’s no surprise, really. You never know where a book will take you…
More about Lizi Boyd:
She shared this blog post with us so we could get a little peak into her creative world: